July 2008


Bathing in Turkey

I’ve stopped in Augsburg, Germany, for a Big Event, which I will not describe beyond saying it’s a work related Big Event.

Tomorrow I leave this beautiful city for HoosierLand with 25€ of chocolate in my suitcase, a Turkey T-Shirt, and dirty laundry. Don’t worry, everything is separated.

After my overnight bus ride from Beach City, Turkey, to Istanbul, I had six hour before my flight—3 if you discount the time it takes to get to the airport plus checking in with an excessive, but comfortable, margin of error for a new-to-me city.

With that time I decided to visit the Cemberlitas Hamami and get cleaned up: sitting on a bus for nine hours is dirty work, especially when the bus company puts two larger males next to each other—I would have preferred the thin fem looking Turk, but I got what I got.

The plan was simple: get a shave, get a bath, and get lunch before heading to the airport.

I dropped my suitcase at the bed and breakfast where I’d previously stayed—the host was kind enough to let me keep my key so I wouldn’t have to disturb him when I got back to Istanbul, and then headed onto the streets.

Unlike the States, Istanbul has lots of barber shops. In the first five minutes of walking, I counted three, and I went into the third, where I suddenly felt like I was the oldest customer they’d had in a long time—a neat trick considering I’m not that old. It also had a quasi-gay feel about it, but that’s not a feeling I trust given the cultural signaling.

I mimed that I wanted a shave, and that’s what a I got—a professional-ish shave, complete with a shaving brush and straight razor. It was nice having somebody else do it, save for the fact that it wasn’t actually that good a shave. I do better by myself with a mirror or whist taking a hot shower. Cost: 6 lira, or 3,05€.

After that I hopped onto a tram and went to the Cemberlitas Hamami, a traditional Turkish bath built in 1584 and located next to the Grand Bazaar. Because I had the luxury of time (but not that much) and an excessive number of Turkish Lira, I went for the biggest package, which not only included a professional washing me, but a 30 minute oil massage.

The bath is a wonderful experience. I spent 15 or 20 minutes lying on the big heated stone under a gigantic dome sweating and doing nothing—it was like lying on the beach in Portugal, except I didn’t need sun screen and at the conclusion of it, some guy was going to come along and scrub away the dirt. Which is what happened: after not doing a thing for awhile, a guy came to scrub me from head to toe, skipping the very middle.

It was wonderfully relaxing and soapy. I actually felt like I was going to slip off of the heated stone pedestal. Once he was done, and this included washing my hair, I was escorted to the massage room, where I was given a lovely massage. Seriously this is something I almost never do, and I regret not doing it. The guy massaged everything and by the end of it, I was putty.

Finally I was washed off again and took a quick shower where I could wash the more private parts. Total cost: 79 Lira, or 40,19€. It was a rather decadent way to spend my morning, and well worth it. When I left the Hamami, I felt perfectly clean: I’d brought clean underwear and a shirt to make sure I felt that way.

From there I headed to the Grand Bazaar where I found a restaurant, where I had an early lunch—so early I suspect I was the first customer of the day.

Once I was done eating, I had a leisurely stroll back to the B&B where I picked up my bags and headed to the airport with plenty of time to spare.

It was the perfect close to my time in Turkey.

B&B Note: Given that homosexuality is legal in Turkey, but not widely accepted, I’m not going to say a lot about the B&B where I stayed, except that it was very gay and very nice. It’s definitely a place for gay bears and the owner is very helpful and wonderful. If you’re going to Istanbul and are interested in knowing where I stayed, please drop me a line.

5 comments to Bathing in Turkey

  • koko

    dustin also really liked the baths.

  • Massaged EvErYtHiNg? Gee, sign me up. LOL

    OK, I know what you meant. It’s kind of nice to get some insight into how these situations work. Turkey is someplace I’d like to visit, and visiting a bath was one of the things on my to-do list.

    Glad to hear that being us is legal there… unlike that small African country we visited where they used to throw witches off of mountains.

  • Hey, I have heard about the Hamami too. Are there Hamamis exclusively for women? Sounds like you had a very orgasmic experience 😉

  • happy forth of july, adam.
    u know, i was gonna call u today, asking when it will be, that i can finally see u again, coz u know, i thought with that message of yours some days ago, u would be in germany, but no, i just got that other message, bringing greetings right from bloomington…
    adam, your travels make me crazy and i want u back here, right now!
    yalla yalla! – hurry.

  • @koko: If Dustin and I are ever in Turkey together, I will pay for him to take a bath.

    @CQ: Errr… maybe I accidentally gave a false impression. There was nothing gay about the experience. I imagine it could have been gay at a different bath.

    @Cathy: I think that Hamami either allow women at separate times or have separate, but equal-ish, facilities.

    @chica: give me a couple weeks! Happy Fourth to you as well!